The Novelist Heals

Forget any romantic images you might have of novel-writing: that it’s nothing but staring out big picture windows at the sea and autographing copies of your books.

No, unfortunately novel-writing, even if you love it, is a draining, soul-sucking enterprise.

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Ten months later, with the help of his neighbor’s faithful beagle, the novelist is nearly healed.

While writing my novels, I strive so hard to make each one the very best it can be, the work takes everything from me, leaving me creatively, emotionally and physically spent.

Since I finished A Truth Stranger than Fiction last December, I’ve written very little new material. True to form (this happens every time I finish a book), for most of this year I questioned whether I would ever write again. But as my best friends know, I started writing again recently—after a 10-month period of healing and refilling the tank.

“When the tank runs dry you’ve only to leave it alone and it will fill up again in time.” —Mark Twain

So what did I do this year to heal, to refill the tank? Let me count the ways…

 

 

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I dusted and mailed copies of A TRUTH STRANGER THAN FICTION to friends, fans and reviewers.

 

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I did a lot of cross-country skiing.

 

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I went cross-country skiing with my dad, Big Al.

 

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I went cross-country skiing with Alexas and drank beer.

 

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I spent time with my best friend Brian’s dog, Milly.

 

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I celebrated my 45th birthday with my best friend Brian and his family. Here, his boys made me a birthday cake: my favorite—gingerbread.

 

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I went to the top of a mountain above Easthampton, Massachusetts. This is the view that inspired Dr. Seuss’s Grinch and his view of Whoville.

 

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I started a new photography project: interesting barns. This one, on Chestnut Ridge Road outside of Millbrook, has been standing since I was a child. I would pass it on the way to my grandparents’ from Maine.

 

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I hung out with my best friend Jason Scott, the Huck Finn to my Tom Sawyer.

 

Shooting

I went shooting with my friend Bob Hanaburgh, here firing Dakota’s gun: a Sig Sauer .45 ACP. I shot very well, once scoring a 77 out of a possible 80.

 

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I visited the top of Mount Holyoke (what a view!) with Alexas.

 

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I took serendipitous photos—this one on the Vassar College campus.

 

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I took photos of the place I love so much—the Millbrook countryside, a.k.a. “Wellington” from ONE HUNDRED MILES.

 

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I visited The Breakers—the Vanderbilt “cottage” in Newport, RI—and the Tennis Hall of Fame.

 

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I spent a weekend on Cape Cod.

 

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I watched kite-surfing on the Cape.

 

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I ate the best scallops I’ve had in 20 years, at a restaurant in Provincetown on the Cape.

 

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I walked the beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore, my trusty notebook ready to take notes.

 

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I took long walks around Millbrook—here on my favorite road, Woodstock Road, which appears in 100 MILES and A TRUTH STRANGER THAN FICTION.

 

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I snuck up on a young buck deer eating windfalls beneath an apple tree.

 

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And herons overlooking still ponds.

 

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I found covered bridges in Vermont…

 

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…and drove through them.

 

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I played golf with my best friend Brian (pictured), and another time with my best friend Jason.

 

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Golf in Dover, Vermont.

 

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I captured idyllic Vermont autumn scenes.

 

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I stumbled on a Vermont heritage festival and church rummage sale.

 

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Inspired by the scene, I sat down and began writing a new story.

 

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I relaxed and enjoyed myself.

 

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I spent a weekend with Alexas at my friend’s vacation house in Vermont. We relaxed in the hot tub, meandered through the state looking at the foliage, and spent evenings in front of a fire.

 

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I saw amazing autumn scenes like this one.

 

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I reread two or three dozen of my favorite stories by Guy de Maupassant…

 

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…my favorite stories by Raymond Carver…

 

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…and my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

 

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I watched the HD restorations of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series (that modern SHERLOCK can suck it).

 

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I’ve been studying French intensely, as well as a bit of Spanish and German.

 

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I made an apple pie.

 

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I started playing chess again.

 

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And I began writing again. :) Both indoors…

 

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…and outdoors. Alone, and with…

 

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…my neighbor’s faithful beagle, Goliath.

 

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By Chris Orcutt

Writer — The Dakota Stevens Mystery Series, Short fiction, Plays — Editor & Speechwriter for Hire — Avid Golfer, Chess Player & Awesome Wood-Splitter — Twitter: @chrisorcutt

Comments (11)

  1. Big Al "Dad" October 16, 2015 at 9:49 am

    I really enjoyed our x-country skiing last winter and look forward to new trails this coming winter. Spending time with family and friends is what life is all about. I’m very pleased to be included in your special moments.
    Dad

  2. Melissa Routson October 14, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Chris,

    I really enjoyed looking at the pictures. I am glad you took time off to relax and enjoy the things that you like the most!! I love the two autumn scenes in Vermont. I cannot wait until your next book comes out. God Bless You and Alexas! Love you!

    • Chris Orcutt October 14, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      Thank you, Melissa! I like the Vermont scenes as well. I love that state. I would live there if possible. Maybe someday Alexas and I will. For now, I’ll just enjoy my friend’s lovely place there. Give my love to Faith. <3 —Chris

  3. Frank Redl October 14, 2015 at 10:45 am

    A great pictorial of recharging one’s batteries. I can only imagine how draining it is to create a novel. I loved the picture of your dad. My wife and I see him often at the paint store when he subs for Judy. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for your faithful readers. Be well.

  4. Shayna October 14, 2015 at 2:07 am

    Chris,

    What a lovely pictorial story of your last ten months. Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to see what you have in store for your readers next! I’m sure it will be even more amazing than the rest.

    Happy Writing!
    Shayna

    • Chris Orcutt October 14, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      Thanks, Shayna! I’m biased, but I do think that the projects I’m working on now are going to be even better than what I’ve done in the past. I hope you are enjoying our great foliage and your job as a mother. Hang in there! :) —Chris

  5. Carole October 14, 2015 at 1:59 am

    Good for you!! I really enjoyed seeing what you were up to while “refilling”. I am happy for you that you are blessed with wonderful family and friends, and the ability to go and enjoy many beautiful places. The next novel should be awesome (as usual)! ;-)

    • Chris Orcutt October 14, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      Thank you so much, Carole! I hope you’ve had a great year and that you’re enjoying our extraordinary weather. I really appreciate the encouragement and support! :)

      —Chris

  6. Clyde Bickford October 14, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Chris,
    Thanks for the pictorial through the past months and sharing those who are important to you. I even got to see that great photo of you and your dad (what a kind man he is). All efforts to bring forth a creation are tiring and one needs adequate time to regain strength.
    Looking forward with anticipation to your new creation.
    Peace,
    Bick

    • Chris Orcutt October 14, 2015 at 12:12 am

      Thanks for taking the time to check out the photos, and for your comment, Bick. You’re right about my father and what a great guy he is. We have a good time together. We’ll be skiing again this winter, God willing. :)

      Hope you’re doing well, and I wish you the best.

      —Chris

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